THE successful Civil Forfeiture Office (CFO) pilot program that sees forfeited vehicles previously used in gang or drug activities provided to police is now being made permanent, the province announced on Tuesday.
These vehicles are used to get the message out about the dangers of a life of crime.
The CFO is inviting B.C.’s law enforcement agencies to submit their applications for a forfeited vehicle. Proposals for the two-year use agreement must involve public education and awareness and those that particularly focus on youth outreach will be given priority. Departments pay for operational costs such as insurance and maintenance as well as the graphical treatment for the vehicle. They can opt to purchase the vehicle at the end of the term or return it to the CFO for liquidation or use by another department.
To date, three forfeited vehicles have been provided by the CFO to aid in anti-gang public engagement campaigns. This past summer, the Kelowna RCMP received a Nissan 350Z sports car. Earlier this year a forfeited BMW SUV was made available to the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit-British Columbia (CFSEU-BC) and in 2011 a forfeited Hummer was provided to the Abbotsford Police Department (APD), which it then purchased at the end of the term.
Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton said: “This program highlights how the Civil Forfeiture Office gives back to communities throughout the province in significant ways. These vehicles give law enforcement departments a chance to reach vulnerable youth through a unique approach, transforming the tools of unlawful activity into rolling billboards. Now, with this ongoing commitment to the program, we will give B.C.’s police agencies even more opportunities to encourage young British Columbians to say no to a life of crime.”
Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit – BC Chief Superintendent Kevin Hackett said: “On behalf of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of British Columbia, I can attest that our forfeited vehicle has been an outstanding tool for outreach, education, and public awareness. The unique and distinctive vehicle wrapping allows for key messaging to spark conversations about crime prevention. The first step in combating gang crime is acknowledging its existence and impact on the community. The Civil Forfeiture Office and its partnerships with law enforcement agencies have found a way, through the success of this program, to highlight the issues, enlighten the public, and arm the community with resources.”
* Access to these vehicles is made possible through government’s civil forfeiture program which continues to undermine the profit motive behind unlawful activity by taking away the tools and proceeds of crime.
* Criteria for agencies interested in submitting an application include:
– not being involved with the vehicle in any way prior to forfeiture;
– dedicating their own resources and bearing all of the costs for the vehicle;
– having a business plan that lays out the agency’s vision, goals and performance measures;
– involving community partners in providing financial assistance for some of the initial expenses such as maintenance, insurance and applying a wrap or “skin” of visuals and messaging to a vehicle.
* When awarded, the vehicle may only be used in special programs focused on crime reduction, remediation, education and awareness. It cannot be used for general duty police work or service calls.
* Now eight years old, B.C.’s civil forfeiture program has obtained forfeiture of approximately 250 vehicles – most with links to drug, gang or organized crime. Nearly all vehicles forfeited to government are sold via online auctions open to public bidding.
* Since the CFO became active in 2006, it has taken in approximately $48 million and has returned more than $16 million from successful forfeiture actions in the form of grants to crime prevention programs, victims of fraud and phony investment schemes, and victim services programs.
* The Province invests $22 million a year in combating guns, gangs and organized crime.